We have spent the past two years working and co-producing online. While this shift has brought with it many benefits, there is also a sense of loss in terms of the ways in which we interact with one another. We’ve lost the incidental conversations on the edges of events or meetings, the kind that aren’t scheduled or even necessarily focused directly on productivity. Now that we have broadly adapted to the practical side of working online, we turn our thoughts to the human implications of being remotely and digitally connected – and how we can mitigate the downsides.
This is part 2 of 4.
Being humans in digital spaces
As collaborative and inclusive as an online space can be, it still means participants are siloed in their little boxes on screen, separated from one another by physical distance. Every interaction becomes by necessity time efficient and focused, and we lose out on the spontaneity of life, the chance encounters, as well as those transitioning moments of coming into the office, leaving the office, getting coffee and tea, lunch breaks. We’re losing our rituals for how we prepare and end the working day: logging in as we eat breakfast, signing out and immediately switching to something else that requires our attention in our immediate environment. We miss the spaces to reflect on the day ahead or the day just gone, or even just the last thing we were doing, whether that is a piece of work or a meeting.
Reducing our travel time and downtime between meetings might seem efficient and productive – but at what cost does this come? These transition times and informal social spaces are good for our health and wellbeing, and people who are happier work better. Some solutions: scheduling time between meetings or between tasks, to get up and walk around. Questioning why we do what we do: does every meeting need to be taken sitting down at a desk, or would we be more comfortable somewhere else? Do we need a change of scenery and can we take a meeting outside? Can we take a phone call sitting on a bench outdoors instead of a videocall at our desk?
Do we need to attend to children, pets, or a delivery? Do we need to prepare lunch or dinner? Do we need to drink or eat? Can we give ourselves and others permission to be human and to bring our whole selves to our calls? To do this we need to see ourselves in each other, see how others are juggling the collision of home and work life. We can make working from home as accessible, comfortable and inclusive as possible, by making space for each other as people and not just colleagues, by being kind, empathetic and considerate.
Next post: Working beyond words
This post was informed by the discussion at the #CoproMondays members’ event held online on 10th January 2022. Our #CoproMonday sessions are fluid discussions with members, prompted by a series of questions or thoughts, where participants contribute their experience and knowledge, and learn from one another. Recordings are available if you’re a member or champion and you would like to catch up on the session content (email email@example.com). Our thanks to all those who participated.